Archives for category: Self-Portrait Poetry


Thank you to the 67 poets from around the world and across the United States who contributed their work to the Silver Birch Press Self-Portrait Poetry Series, which ran from August 1-31, 2014.

We extend our heartfelt appreciation to the following poets:

Kathryn Almy (U.S., Michigan)
Cynthia Anderson (U.S., California)
Ivan Argüelles (U.S., California)
Ronald Baatz (U.S., New York)
Suvojit Banerjee (India)
Carol Berg (U.S., Massachusetts)
Alan Birkelbach (U.S., Texas)
Eric Burke (U.S., Ohio)
Ana Maria Caballero (Colombia)
Mary-Marcia Casoly (U.S., California)
Tobi Cogswell (U.S., California)
Beth Copeland (U.S., North Carolina)
Anthony Costello (United Kingdom)
Tasha Cotter (U.S., Kentucky)
Kaila Davis (U.S., Michigan)
Rodrigo V. Dela Peña (Singapore)
David Diaz (U.S., California)
Barbara Eknoian (U.S., California)
Adelle Foley (U.S., California)
Jack Foley (U.S., California)
Michael Friedman (U.S., North Carolina)
Jeannine Hall Gailey (U.S., Washington)
Phillip Giambri (U.S., New York)
John Grochalski (U.S., New York)
Clara Hsu (U.S., California)
Elizabeth Jacobson (U.S., New Mexico)
Loukia M. Janavaras (United Arab Emirates)
Mathias Jansson (Sweden)
Jax NTP (U.S., California)
Kasey  Johnson (U.S., Oregon)
Jennifer Lynn Krohn (U.S., New Mexico)
Angela La Voie (U.S., Virginia)
Roz Levine (U.S., California)
Alexander Limarev (Russia)
Stephen Linsteadt (U.S., California)
Tamara Madison (U.S., California)
Adrian Manning (United Kingdom)
Michael Mark (U.S., California)
Daniel McGinn (U.S., California)
Victoria McGrath (Australia)
Bob McNeil (U.S., New York)
Ann Menebroker (U.S., California)
Danielle Mitchell (U.S., California)
karla k. morton (U.S., Texas)
Robert Okaji (U.S., Texas)
Jay Passer (U.S., California)
Alan Passman (U.S., California)
D.A. Pratt (Canada)
Billy Roberson (U.S., Michigan)
Rizwan Saleem (United Arab Emirates)
Paul Sands (United Kingdom)
Rebecca Schumejda (U.S., New York)
roy anthony shabla (U.S., California)
Sheikha A. (Pakistan)
Jakia Smith (U.S., Michigan)
Kimberly Smith (U.S., Michigan)
Eddie Stewart (U.S., Michigan)
Jacque Stukowski (U.S., Illinois)
Rosa Swartz (U.S., Oregon)
Simen Moflag Talleraas (Norway)
Keyna Thomas (U.S., Massachusetts)
Sarah Thursday (U.S., California)
A. Garnett Weiss (Canada)
Denise R. Weuve (U.S., California)
Liz Worth (Canada)
Birgit Zartl (Austria)

Special thanks to Peter Markus, writer-in-residence at the InsideOut Literary Arts Project of Detroit, for submitting his students’ poems.

author bio circa 2014
by John Grochalski

john grochalski lives in brooklyn, new york
with his long-suffering wife,
the poet and novelist, ally malinenko
and their 15 year old cat, june
who simply refuses to leave this plane of existence

when he isn’t listening to every subtle nuance of noise
made by neighbors, vehicles, barking dogs, and garbage men,
or being distracted by the wide variety of internet porn made available
grochalski attempts to write poems, stories, and novels

subsisting on a diet of pizza, tacos, coffee, beer, scotch,
and cheap chilean red wine
grochalski works full-time as a public librarian
which has only served to lower his opinion of librarians
and the general public as a whole

dealing with a mild case of OCD
grochalski refuses to believe that that the oven is off
and the windows in his apartment are truly shut

he has traveled extensively in europe
coming to the conclusion that every place is different
in exactly the same way

grochalski often confuses trapped gas for heart attack pains

he believes beyond a shadow of a doubt
that the founding of the united states of america
was some kind of cruel joke played on humanity

in his spare time he hates children, teenagers, republicans,
democrats, hockey, onions, 21st century american art,
cell phones, and anyone who calls him a luddite for hating cell phones

he thinks the work of hans fallada
is currently the bee’s knees

IMAGE: “The Drinker” by Billy Childish (1996), influenced by Hans Fallada‘s novel The Drinker.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: John Grochalski is the author of The Noose Doesn’t Get Any Looser After You Punch Out (Six Gallery Press 2008), Glass City (Low Ghost Press, 2010), In The Year of Everything Dying (Camel Saloon, 2012), Starting with the Last Name Grochalski (Coleridge Street Books, 2014), and the novel, The Librarian (Six Gallery Press, 2013). Grochalski currently lives in Brooklyn, New York, where he constantly worries about the high cost of everything.

by Carol Berg

Should I go running today? Should I
climb trees? When should I shower

and how much time should I spend on
the computer? How much time should I spend on

my son? Keep trying to teach him how to tie
his shoelaces but I get so impatient.

It doesn’t get done.
I tell him the laces are too long.

But I am baking the bread today mixing yeast
with warm loving water adding sugar and salt

for the yeast to feed on change into bubbles
like laughter under water and then the King

Arthur’s Flour, no, wait it’s the on-sale crappy
flour. Three teaspoons equal one capitalized

tablespoon since I lost our only silver
measuring spoon. Threw it away, probably, in the trash,

mixed in with beet skins and egg shells.
There is a wire fallen down onto our mailbox

an electrical mistake. If only our bills
would catch on fire sizzle and snap into something

I can’t possible send back. Consider all downed wires
to be energized the National Grid website says and oh if only I were

considered as dangerous when I was down.

IMAGE: “Gizmo 2” by Leah Saulnier. Prints available at


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Carol Berg’s poems are forthcoming or in The Journal, Spillway, Sou’wester, Redactions, Pebble Lake Review, Fifth Wednesday Journal, and Verse Wisconsin. Her most recent chapbook, Her Vena Amoris, is available from Red Bird Chapbooks.

by Tamara Madison

This body is the vehicle
by which I navigate the world.
Here is a photograph
of its younger self
crouched on a rock.
Those feet are the feet
by which I have always
trod the earth, but the photo
was taken before living
had given them
bunions and fungus.
The hair that falls
in a hazy fan
down the shoulder
is this hair before it took on
shades of silver and gray.
The face in the photo
is turned away, watching
the winter sun drift down
behind the mountains
while the future
crouches behind the rock,
waiting to climb up
the young back,
this same back with the turn
in its spine which forms
the little hump where
for six decades I have stored
my slights and sorrows.
My body’s scaffold of bones
is the same, but all the cells
are brand spanking new.

IMAGE: “Red Hills, Lake George” by Georgia O’Keeffe (1927).


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Tamara Madison teaches English and French at a public high school in Los Angeles. Raised on a citrus farm in the California desert, Tamara’s life has taken her many places, including Europe and the former Soviet Union, where she spent fifteen months in the 1970s. A swimmer and dog lover, Tamara says, “All I ever wanted to do with my life was write, and I mostly write poetry because it suits my lifestyle. I like the way one can say so much in the economical space of a poem.”

by karla k. morton

I am more Roman than Greek;
one-tenth Neanderthal;
in love with the white wardrobe;
the toga,
laurels tied to dark hair;

acres of olives;
vineyards older than
all ancestors.

I dream in mosaics –
bits of pottery and shell
pieced into lions;
the cool blues and greens
of tiny squares;

the transience of pearls
at my neck;
a belief in gods who chariot the sun
across the sky;

drawing up words
in endless buckets
from the wells.

Were we gods ourselves,
we wouldn’t bother
with such simple tools –
the alphabet, the ink, the papyrus

but late at night,
the stars begin to hum;
the moon rounds her mouth
and whispers
everything she’s ever seen.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I wake every morning excited about the possibilities; wondering what miracle will reveal itself throughout the day. Always there is something – a glimpse of lizard changing from black to emerald; a research pearl; a poem that gets stuck in my head. It’s the blessing of being able to do what you love – the excitement of a blank sheet of paper; words pulled down from the sky.

IMAGE: Roman mosaic of young woman, available at


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: karla k. morton, the 2010 Texas Poet Laureate, is a Councilor of the Texas Institute of Letters and a graduate of Texas A&M University. Described as “one of the most adventurous voices in American poetry,” she is a Betsy Colquitt Award Winner, twice an Indie National Book Award Winner, the recipient of the Writer-in-Residency E2C Grant, and the author of nine collections of poetry. Morton has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, is a nominee for the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame, and established an ekphrastic collaborative touring exhibit titled: No End of Vision: Texas as Seen By Two Laureates, pairing photography with poetry with Texas Poet Laureate Alan Birkelbach. Morton’s work has been used by many students in their UIL Contemporary Poetry contests, and was recently featured with seven other prominent authors in 8 Voices: Contemporary Poetry of the American Southwest. Her forthcoming book (her 10th), Constant State of Leaping (The Texas Review Press), arrives Fall, 2014.

Author photo by Bill Mackey

self-portrait as Salvador Dalí
by Jax NTP

rationing out mistakes, you must devour them slowly,
and you must systematically create confusion — it sets
creativity free. the way a blank book seeks the writer
for a long-term relationship. the Metamorphosis
of Narcissus, the hands cupping a soft-boiled egg,
strangulating sexuality. supported by the privity
of osseous for crutches, the female coccyx exposes
seven tantric drawers — each compartment
is a disambiguation of tikkun olam — how to surrender
the need to know.

emmenez-moi au bout de la terre. il me semble
que la misère — serait moins pénible au soleil.
take me, not the Burning Giraffe, i am the drug.
take me, not the melting Camembert clock,
i am the hallucinogen. the urgency of optical illusions,
the human skull consisting of seven naked women’s bodies.

to preserve my madness from oblivion: there are days
when i think i am going to die from an overdose
of satisfaction. intelligence without ambition
is the Woman with a Head of Roses, Madrid
without the architectural peninsula — where
skeleton ships become men and men become voyages.

false memories are the most authentic. redolent
of nightmares, not dreams, embalm the broken
portico of your heart before delirium plants elephant
on stilts. Language is a source of misunderstanding — forged
in a kiln that cannot go north after summer. act the genius
and you shall become one. if you understand the painting
beforehand, you might as well not paint it.

IMAGE: Salvador Dali with a starfish on the beach in Cadaques, Spain (c.1960).


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jax NTP holds an MFA in Creative Writing – Poetry from CSULB. Jax was the former editor-in-chief of RipRap Literary Journal and associate editor of The Fat City Review. Jax has an affinity for jellyfish and polaris and a fetish for miniature succulent terrariums. Visit her at

by Daniel McGinn 

I will now paint my fingers
like breadsticks and I will nibble
my serrated nails.

I will sit down here forever; it seems
like an exercise, my legs run in place
and they need something to kick.

Now show me a window
and do not think I will
not jump, because I will.

I will never learn
to paint my colors
inside of the lines
you draw for me.

I have bread in these hands,
my cup runneth all over
the canvas with a splash.

I leap out of the frame,
I am coloring the walls,
I am moving in streaks.

I stand in the corner,
I stand here forever,
paint drops dripping.

IMAGE: “Picasso’s Bread Rolls” by Robert Doisneau (Valllauris, France, 1952).


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Daniel McGinn‘s work has appeared numerous anthologies and publications, his full length collection of poems, 1000 Black Umbrellas was released by Write Bloody Press. He recently earned an MFA in writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts. He and his wife, poet Lori McGinn, are natives of Southern California. They have 3 children, 6 grandchildren, two parakeets and a very good dog.

by Robert Okaji

Darker shades contain black or grey. I claim
the median and the shortened spectrum, near dawn’s terminus.

In many languages, one word describes both blue and green.

Homer had no word for it.

The color of moonlight and bruises, of melancholy and unmet
expectation, it cools and calms, and slows the heart.

Woad. Indigo. Azurite. Lapis lazuli. Dyes. Minerals. Words. Alchemy.

On this clear day I stretch my body on the pond’s surface and submerge.

Not quite of earth, blue protects the dead against evil in the afterlife,
and offers the living solace through flatted notes and blurred 7ths.

Blue eyes contain no blue pigment.

In China, it is associated with torment. In Turkey, with mourning.

Between despair and clarity, reflection and detachment,
admit the leaves and sky, the ocean, the earth.

Water captures the red, but reflects and scatters blue.

Look to me and absorb, and absorbing, perceive.

PHOTO: Self-portrait by Robert Okaji.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Robert Okaji’s work has appeared in Boston Review, Otoliths, Prime Number Magazine, Clade Song, and Vayavya, among others. He lives in Texas with his wife and two dogs.

by Jack Foley

His mater is delectable,
            Something of a scandal
Solacious, and commendable;
            a disgrace to the literary establishment
His English well allowed,
            missing genius when it is right under their noses
So as it is emprowed,
            “publishers,” “critics,” and “academics”
For as it is employed,
            Ah, given the futility of much contemporary American culture
There is this mighty Void,
            our cultural “elites,” craven before those great gods
At these dayes moch commended,
            Culture, the race to the bottom
O Godde, would men have amended
            sheer disgust
His English, and do they barke,
            relearn self-respect they have forgotten
And mar all they warke?
            the darkening of thought’s tower
Foly, that famus clerke,
            sunset: fire retreating
His termes were not darke,
            where the open-faced smile of the American Emersonian, that    happy existentialist . . .
But plesaunt, easy, and plaine;
            meets the European Nietzschean’s burned grimace
No worde he wrote in vaine.
thr gsbot bivyim yhr derryinhd yhr nounfsty
yhr dvugg
yo slloe yhr dprvisllplainted grass bag
refuse to divulge
yhr eoetlf ot yr nrst nr vsllrf yo sloe yhr dpitiyd yhodr mrfis
I eill trvkon him
yhr rdyrrm in ehivh nre yrttioyyt
ehivh oyhrtd msy ginf yoo Vhtidyisn
the likelihood that the village
you ertr s punliv return had no connection sll in bsin
motr onr yhsn snoyhrt brty yhivk zz & Isthr
we talked of a part of the craving the fullest satisfact ion
errk dytryvh
I hsbr likrnrf you yhr noyr og s honh when he kills
llrlivi llrlfo

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: The passage in Middle English is an adaptation of a passage by John Skelton in praise of Geoffrey Chaucer. Other phrases are taken from Christopher Bernard‘s review of my book, EYES ( ). The fractured passage at the conclusion of the poem is taken from my sequence, “LETTERS” — dedicated to the sixth Marx Brother, Typo.

IMAGE: “The Man” by Odilon Redon (1916).


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jack Foley is a widely published, innovative California poet. He has published 13 books of poetry, five books of criticism, and Visions and Affiliations, a chronoencyclopedia of California poetry from 1940 to 2005. His radio show, Cover to Cover, is heard on Berkeley, California radio station KPFA every Wednesday at 3; his column, “Foley’s Books,” appears in the online magazine Alsop Review. In 2010, Foley was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Berkeley Poetry Festival, and June 5, 2010 was proclaimed “Jack Foley Day” in Berkeley. With poet Clara Hsu, Foley is co-publisher of Poetry Hotel Press. EYES, Foley’s Selected Poems, has appeared from Poetry Hotel Press and a chapbook, LIFE, has appeared from Word Palace Press. With his wife Adelle, Foley performs his work (often “multivoiced” pieces) frequently in the San Francisco Bay Area. Their performances can be found on YouTube. Read more at and on his website.

by D.A. Pratt

Regina’s mythologies
are not my mythologies . . .
Saskatchewan’s mythologies
are not my mythologies . . .
And Canada’s mythologies
are definitely not mine . . .
Fleeting glances in my direction,
genuinely rare I realize,
won’t see the truth . . .
Mirror images, even the ones
presenting my best angle,
won’t reflect my reality . . .
How does an outsider
who appears outwardly
like a completely conventional citizen
paint a self-portrait with words?
I don’t know . . . I really don’t . . .

IMAGE: Street art in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:  Within the context that he knows why he continues to live in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada, David A. Pratt continues to wonder why he continues to live in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada. This is the fourth poem by David that Silver Birch Press has published this summer. Later this year, he is hoping to reprint his definitive study of the two versions of Henry Miller’s book-length essay entitled “The World of Sex,” which first appeared in Volume Five of Nexus: The International Henry Miller Journal.